A CARDINAL FOR ANIMALS
A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals
Selections From The Ark Number 200 - Summer 2005
François-Auguste-Ferdinand Cardinal Donnet, 1795-1882, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, was a much respected and long-serving cleric and a leading supporter of papal infallibility at the First Vatical Council. He was also a formidable supporter of animal welfare, as this speech illustrates.
By Cardinal Donnet
(Speech at an Agricultural Meeting of the District of Blaye, Sant-Savin, 3 September 1866. Report of the French Society for the Protection of Animals.)
Gentlemen, – Not long ago I called upon the meeting at Bazas to admire a bee-hive. Today I shall speak to you on a subject for which I cannot fail to have your sympathy. I wish to make you kind and compassionate.
I shall not speak to you of charitable devotion to your brethren. I shall not talk to you of the wonders of public and private charity. But if, as I like to bear witness, you are just and good to each other, why should you not also be just, good, and compassionate to the animals which help you to make your land productive, and to distribute its fruits? Our power over the creatures which surround us comes from God Himself. It has pleased Him who created the world to put us over them, and to make animals obey us. ‘Let us make man, and set him over all things that live.’ But to this authority God has annexed duties from which we are not allowed to withdraw. By placing animals under us He has commanded us to be full of pity for them. We are not to turn against them those advantages which Providence has given us in order that we may rule them wisely.
The protection due to animals is partly embodied in a recent enactment … But it would be of little use to make a law if the sense of duty were not engraven on our people’s hearts, and if the support given to it by our writers had not already found an echo in all ranks of society. … For my part, I applaud every sort of effort of the monthly circulars issued on behalf of animals. This energetic start gives a hope that, from theory, the ideas of compassion may pass into conduct, which is more powerful than laws.
The Church, by the voice of her Sovereign Pontiffs, has placed herself at the head of the movement. It is for her to take the lead whenever she can make herself heard. …
The government of animals imposes two duties on man: that of taking care of them in making use of them, and that of sparing them all useless suffering. …Such would be the wrong done by a landowner who aimed at an absurd economy in feeding his flocks or his teams, speculating also on the profit of sales by fattening his stock in ways hurtful to the health of his animals, or who abandoned the care of his farms to paid servants. Those, again, would be wicked who, through negligence, allowed the grain or the grass to deteriorate, speculating in their turn in fraudulent robbery of poor creatures powerless to report to their masters the disloyal and cruel proceedings of their salaried tyrants … One link overlaps another, gentlemen, in the chain of evil; and if we describe in commonest detail these pictures of human carelessness, it is to remind men that they are neglectful of animals only because they allow their consciences to rust in shameful apathy.
The Holy Spirit bids the idle to consider the ant, and be ashamed of [the idlers’] indolence. We would also bid the greedy landowners, the unfaithful farmers, to consider heir flocks and herds, and see the results of their negligence … The second duty imposed on man towards animals is summed up in that word of such wide meaning – humanity.
Adam’s sin and the fear of animals
We are, gentlemen, far removed from that too short period when man, created in innocence and submission to his Creator, saw all the animals come to him, and bear the yoke of his authority without fear. Now, every thing that lives and breathes fears his shadow even, and flees at his approach. This terror is, without doubt, one of the punishments incurred by the first sin, which broke man’s union with God.
But is not this terror our work also? From the beginning, the only exceptions to this rule are about a dozen different domestic animals. Even the majority of them would have the right to accuse us of barbarism if they could hand down from generation to generation the particulars of the evils which they have had to endure, sometimes by over-work and sometimes through ill-treatment. …
Ah, without occupying himself with agricultural problems, or the methods of feeding, but by the sole fact of the command he exercises over himself, and the regular habits he has formed, the religious man becomes gentle, moderate, and humane in the tribute of work he exacts from his animals. … he sees in them the companions of his labours, and he takes good care not to cut them off from his affection and compassion. …
One cannot too often tell the farm servants, drivers, and carters, that in overloading, in making over-long journeys, in inflicting, according to their caprice, cruel blows on their oxen or horses, they commit a barbarism for which they will pay dearly.
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